Money rarely motivates! Buy them boots

Money quickly becomes an entitlement.

I remember being a Business Manager of a Big Box Construction store. I had 200 team members, $20M in annual sales and 125 000 sq ft of selling space. We paid our team every Thursday by direct deposit. And never, not even once did any of my team ever thank me on Thursday for getting paid. But, it was not uncommon for a 17 year old student to show up at my office door on a Thursday morning tapping their paystub. I would ask, "how can I help you?" Their response..."You owe me 4 hours!" This makes my point that even a teenager feels that money for their work done is owed to them and they are right. To keep your team engaged you definitely need to pay your team well and on time.

As a side note, to show caring and engagement, I also made it my personal task to check in on every new team member the first Thursday that they were to be paid to ensure that their pay was correct and was in their account. I would put the date and their name in my calendar so I would remember to check in with them. (I would always check with payroll first to make sure I knew the answer to the question I was asking) and then I would personally approach them that Thursday morning and casually say, "Hey, oh yeah, it is payday!  Have you checked yet to make sure you got paid?" They would either tell me yes or check right there on the spot." This was a great way to show team members that they mattered to me and to the company. That being said, after the honeymoon was over, money very quickly becomes an entitlement for most team members.

Here is where the story begins. I was helping to manage a plumbing company. It was in desperate need of guidance and structure. They had a crew of one licensed plumber and basically 7 fugitives. Seriously, once on a job site there was a situation where I needed to call the police and once I was off the phone and turned around two of our team members were gone. I asked "Where did they go?" and the response was..."They don't like the police!"

I was able to convince the owner to build a new set of standards. We build a mission statement, core values, a business strategy and an action plan. We invested in uniforms. (No more t-shirts with no sleeves, ripped pants and licensed hats). Our entire team was decked out in our brand and our logo. We cleaned up the shop and the trucks. We started to recruit program versus the former plan of just hiring who ever showed up. We built a career plan with each team member and committed to helping them achieve their goals. We committed to approving all invitations to trade school. We build a team target of "8 and 8 by 24!" Everyone knew this plan and what it meant. Our team goal was to have 8 licensed plumbers and 8 registered apprentices on our team by 2024. We were committed to building home grown talent. Finding licensed plumbers was a challenge, we decided to create our own talent and in two short years we were at 4 and 4, so we were right on track to achieve our goal in 2024.

So, there we were, building pride, building a successful business and getting and keeping everyone engaged.  There was one more thing, I noticed that most of our team had really nasty boots. They are required to have steel toed safety boots on any construction site. I approached the owner, he had already made a huge investment into this business and I was about to ask for one more thing. I wanted to give each person a $200 annual boot allowance. The owner was a huge fan of seeing a return before investing so I had to be creative. I approached him and asked if we could give each team member a 10 cent an hour raise? His response was "Ok, but won't that just piss them off?" I asked him to let me explain.

I mentioned to him how much we had achieved and that we were already seeing a return in the business from these changes but the one thing we have not done is take care of our team's feet. Our team members work on average 2080 hours per year (40 hours x 52 weeks) so if we gave them each a $200 annual boot allowance it would be the same as giving them each a 10 cent an hour raise (and we would actually save the $8).

The return would be that our team would now be clean and professional from head to toe. Our team member's feet would be properly protected also reducing the potential for foot, leg and back pain. Reducing time off work. We would get a ton of goodwill from our team because we are giving them something that they need to live a better life every day. If you have ever had to wear uncomfortable shoes you know exactly what I am talking about. Before implementing this program some of our guys were actually taping up the holes in their boots in a sad attempt to keep their feet dry. The owner agreed and when we announced it to the team they were all so excited. Most rushed out and bought new boots that day. The appreciation was plateable. We even recommended that if they could, they should try to spend just a little more to get really great boots and a few did.

However, I noticed that two of my team did not participate in this opportunity. Individually I asked them why? They both said that although they knew they would be reimbursed  they did not have the money right now to go out and buy boots. So, I gave them my personal credit card to go out and get boots. (and to bring me the receipts so I could get reimbursed-I am kind, not foolish!)  Again, taking care of the team and building goodwill, showing that as leaders we are always there to help solve problems and to take care of them.

So, now the team goes out every day with dry and safe feet recalling the example of caring from their leadership team. And the team also goes out each year with excitement knowing that their leadership team cares about them, their safety and their feet, and all for just 10 cent an hour.

Find ways to help your team, find ways to build goodwill and give your team the support they need and deserve beyond a paycheck. Give people more than they expect and give it graciously.

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